Google launched a new local search app for Android smartphones Thursday. It’s called Field Trip, and it’s a mixture of a hyper-local discovery tool and one of those city guidebooks you buy in tourist shops.
Field Trip grabs your location (via cell tower, Wi-Fi or GPS) and shows you nearby points of interest: restaurants, parks, art shows, cool shops, and historical factoids about the area you’re in.
It’s the latest exemplar of Google’s continuing investment in local search, from the company’s acquisition of Zagat a year ago, to May’s launch of Google Now, its voice-powered local search tool (and Siri competitor) that’s built into the latest Android OS. It also comes at a time when the company is scrambling to recover from Apple’s ceremonious dumping of its mapping partnership in iOS 6.
I tested it on a Galaxy Nexus. It’s Android-only for now, with an iOS version “coming soon,” and it’s not optimized for tablets, so it’s clear Field Trip is meant to be a phone thing. You’re given three choices for how to consume the information: a list, a map and instant notifications. You can also leave it on as you drive around, and it will talk to you, reading the local highlights aloud as you cruise through a city.Field Trip shows you nearby points of interest: restaurants, parks, art shows, cool shops, and historical factoids about the area you’re in.
After giving it permission to access my location data (more on that later), Field Trip started filling up.
There’s an interesting-looking rock show happening tonight at Hotel Utah saloon, which is one block away. Jack London’s birthplace is a block in the other direction, at 615 Third St. (Woah, really?) HRD, the restaurant across the street, has awesome Mongolian cheesesteaks. Cool stuff to know if I was visiting the neighborhood.
Other information wasn’t so useful. FieldTrip’s lead item was a news story about Reddit users’ plan to buy a tropical island, which was likely given priority because Reddit’s office is 100 feet down the hall from my Wi-Fi router. Also, nestled between the restaurant and the nightclub was an item detailing the history of San Francisco’s original “F” streetcar line, which was discontinued in 1951. Uh, thanks.
So it’s a mix of the tantalizing and the trivial. But overall, I think it’s filled with enough useful stuff for visitors to get their bearings. If you’re pickier than me, you can upvote or downvote each item it serves, which supposedly helps tune the recommendation engine.
The app is populated using data from “dozens” of content partners, according to Google. Songkick (show information), Eater (restaurants), Flavorpill (events of all kinds), and Thrillist (hot cafes and shops) are there to tell you where to go and what to eat. Architizer (public art, interesting buildings), Remodelista (designy boutiques), and Inhabitat (a designy blog) are there for the nerdier stuff. You can turn any of these services on or off, or ask to see more or less of the items from each partner.
Also served to you are Google Offers, which show up as coupons and deals for nearby businesses, and restaurant reviews from Zagat, Google’s crown jewel in this space. These can also be turned on and off. The New York Times has an in-depth look at what Field Trip means for Google’s emerging play in the augmented reality and local search businesses.
To test it, I turned off the most intrusive of Jelly Bean’s location settings, allowing GPS access and the the anonymous cellular and Wi-Fi location reporting, but turning off the permission for Google to use my location “to improve search results and other services.” All of my tests were performed with the last setting switched off, and the app remained useful even without it.
One feature suggestion — a morality slider, a setting you can adjust to alter the sauciness of the recommendations. That way, mom and dad can use it to find all the wonderful landmarks when they visit our beautiful city. But then I can use the same app when I’m out with the boys on a Saturday night, looking for trouble.
WIRED Suggestions are a pleasant mixture of fun and unique, useful and esoteric. Experience is tunable and customizable. Clean interface with both list and map options. Works with the scarier location sharing settings switched off.
TIRED Android-only. Aimed mostly at tourists and clueless locals. Not optimized for tablets like the Nexus 7, which could be useful given the ubiquity of urban Wi-Fi coverage.
Article by Michael Calore (c) Product Reviews - Read full story here.